December 2013 Bar Bulletin
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From the Desk of the Presiding Judge

Keeping up with the Judges

By Judge Richard McDermott


This is my last column for the Bar Bulletin as the presiding judge and I would like to use it to give you an update on the latest in Superior Court as well as an opportunity to share a few thoughts at the end of my term as P.J.

We currently have in effect three-year terms for our presiding judge. The job of presiding judge in King County Superior Court has grown so much over the years that it is more than a full-time commitment. My week is filled with meetings, deadlines, strategy sessions, planning committees, helping other judges solve problems, fielding complaints and trying to supervise the completion of goals that are set at the beginning of the year.

I do not have the opportunity of trying cases because there is literally no time to do that. The King County Superior Court has approximately 380 employees, 53 judges and 11 (soon to be 12) court commissioners, including four newly appointed commissioners: A. Chad Allred (ex parte); Jennie Laird (family law); James Kahan (family law); and Melinda Johnson-Taylor (family law). Our budget is roughly $42 million a year. The P.J. is the CEO of a major corporation. It is fun and challenging, but also exhausting. I am looking forward to going back into the courtroom and doing what I love most - trials.

I just announced rotations and assignments for 2014. Judge Susan Craighead will succeed me as P.J. on January 1. I will return to the trial calendar in Kent at the Maleng Regional Justice Center. Judge Palmer Robinson will become the assistant P.J. and will also wear the hat of Unified Family Court chief judge. Judge Wesley Saint Clair will step in as chief of the Juvenile Court, Judge Helen Halpert will return to the King County Courthouse and the civil calendar, and Judge John Erlick will take a rotation at Juvenile Court.

Judge Deborah Fleck and Judge Michael Hayden are retiring and the governor is scheduled to announce two newly appointed judges early this month. (He may already have done so by the time you read this.) Judge Ron Kessler is stepping down as chief criminal judge and will hear cases as a Unified Family Court judge. He will be joined on the UFC by Judge Richard Eadie in Seattle, and in Kent by Judge Lori-Kay Smith and Judge Suzanne Parisien. Judge Jim Rogers will step up to chief criminal judge from assistant chief. Judge Patrick Oishi will assume new duties as assistant chief criminal judge in Seattle.

Judge Cheryl Carey will remain as chief judge at the MRJC and Judge Mariane Spearman will assume the duties of chief civil judge in Seattle. Judge Greg Canova will continue as Drug Court judge and Judge Carey will also continue in that capacity in Kent. Judge Doug North, Judge Julia Garratt and a yet-to-be-named new judge will join me in Kent, and Judge Carol Schapira, Judge Regina Cahan and Judge Oishi will pass us on I-5 on their way back to Seattle.

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